Menu - Mr Yum

In Melbourne’s cafes the industrial-chic look is second only to Scandinavian minimalism in terms of popularity. But at Project281 Sarge Michael (former owner of The Glass Den) has taken the theme far more literally than others. Enter the former warehouse off Albert Road and you’re greeted by towering walls of one-tonne concrete drainage pits, which usually live underground and connect stormwater pipes. Project281’s are overflowing with greenery.

Continue inside to find a sizeable coffee bar and kitchen bordered by exposed-aggregate concrete counters, and 97 seats spread between ground floor and a mezzanine. Balustrades are made from dull concrete-reinforcement rods, and the chandeliers from Victorian-era-style black steel lacework. The walls are bright white, but as the fit-out ages, more reo rods sunk into the brickwork will rust and dribble downwards to create dramatic streaks.

All this isn’t entirely arbitrary. For the 40 years the site was previously occupied by a printing business, which are famously grubby operations. When architecture firm Splinter Society – the same team behind Howler’s look – had its first walkthrough it was immediately taken with the site’s decay.

Project281 roasts its own coffee (as Founder Coffee) with a 12-kilogram Probat roaster. Project281’s baristass pull their espresso roasts through a Sanremo Cafe Racer; and filter is made to order using the Marco SP9, an incredibly consistent, single-serve percolator. Coffee might be served in a HuskeeCup, made from a mix of plastic and recycled coffee husks. They’re not as nice to hold as ceramic, but they’re better insulated and keep coffee hotter for longer if you’re the kind of person who likes to nurse your drink for 45 minutes.

Adjacent to the coffee bar, the kitchen plates up the usual breakfasts done-over with pan-Asian flavours. You might find dishes such as the coconut rice pudding with peach sponge and raspberry pearls; poke bowls; and a Korean chicken burger with kimchi fries. There’s a simpler menu for kids, too.

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Updated: June 5th, 2023

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